Mercy Self-Destructs, A Smash Bros Phenomenon

Mercy Self-Destructs, A Smash Bros Phenomenon

I’ve spent a long time playing For Glory in Smash Bros — that hardcore one-on-one mode with no items and flat stages. And while much of that playtime has been me getting my arse kicked, I can’t help but keep coming back to it. Part of it is that, in my experience at least, the players in For Glory are very classy.

Sometimes, when I kill myself in a silly way, I’ve noticed that other players sometimes promptly self-destruct too. At first, it baffled me. Someone in an online game is being nice? Isn’t multiplayer famed for the shit-talkers, the teabaggers, the jerks and the arseholes? And yes, when I accidentally kill myself, sometimes the response isn’t kind. A self-destruct might be met with a taunt rather than a mercy self-destruct. But, more often than that, the other player will kill themselves too in an attempt to level the playing field. It’s as if these players are silently saying, yo, I know that death was whack, and I’m not going to take advantage of it. It’s also the sort of thing you never see in casual For Fun matches of Smash Bros., because those are modes where lives don’t matter as much, and players aren’t concerned with fairness.

I’m not alone in experiencing this phenomenon. Reader Sage Starkiller Gaming sent me a clip of a mercy self-destruct happening to them:

At around the :15 mark, you see the Fox die in a baffling way. In response, the Mega Man throws themselves off the stage too.

Here’s another clip, where Alejandro Martínez finds that a Ness player is willing to sacrifice themselves to make things fair after a bad self-destruct:

I’ve also heard stories of players crouching down to signal to the other player that they need to go ‘AFK’ for a second — and the second player will stop fighting out of courtesy. These are just a few of the types of stories of great sportsmanship I’ve heard from the Smash Bros community. It’s the sort of thing that has me impressed with the For Glory mode, as easy as it is to ridicule for taking a party game like Smash so seriously.

That’s not to say there is a consensus on how things like this should be treated. Over on the Smash Boards, for example, there’s a thread discussing mercy self-destructs where there are some people saying that those who kill themselves in silly ways should suffer the consequences. It’s a harsh mentality, but one that trusts that players must live with poor self-destructs if they’re going to get better at the game. And some players aren’t willing to do mercy self-destructs unless the initial self-destruct meets a certain criteria. Maybe the first person needs to self-destruct at a low percentage, or they have to have a certain amount of skill. Some players also recognise that if you do choose to keep playing normally despite a silly self-destruct, that win might not necessarily feel satisfying.

So, there are arguments both for and against mercy-killings, but it’s certainly a thing that some players experience, or have to think about how to deal with.

I’m not saying you have to do mercy self-destructs in order to exhibit good sportsmanship in For Glory matches. People have different philosophies on what is fair in a match. I understand that. But I would like to give those that do mercy self-destructs a shoutout: y’all are awesome, and you are inspiring me to become a nicer player in online games.

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